When is the last time where you truly felt alive? Where you were so into what you were doing physically, so present, that you were “in the zone”?
I hope that you had the chance of feeling that amazing rush of adrenaline in the last 24 hours. Really. Why wouldn’t it be? I mean, we all have access to our body, as well as a certain space, and that is truly all we need to get back to our physical self.
And we need it. Deeply. Our society is so focused on brains that we often forget that we are more than that. We need to embrace our whole humanity, and get back to our body, so that we don’t forget that we are more than our thoughts, more than the image we are trying to project, more than the label we try to identify ourselves with.
Sitting is the new killing. We sit all day. 1+1 makes 2 right? That’s why I’m encouraging you to embrace movement, whenever you can. Move throughout your day, whenever you get the chance to. Training and working out won’t get you anywhere if you’re sitting the rest of the day.
Looking for some inspiration? Observe kids. They don’t work out, they play. They don’t go for a run, they are way to focus on playing tag. They don’t do plyo, but they play hopscotch and jump throughout the whole thing.
And kids won’t sit. They are very well-connected to their bodies, and they instinctively want to move after 10-15 minutes in the same position.
It is very sad that we lose that connection with ourselves as we grow, mostly because of social institutions that force us to enter in that sitting box. The impacts are not only physical: some people literally think with their bodies, and taking that tool away from them is amputating them from their precious and creative mind.
Be careful about performance
What really inspires me when I look at kids is how fun it is for them to move. Over time, it has become my main motivation: pleasure.
Although we do walk a lot in my family and enjoy a few sports activities, my parents, as well as my grandparents, never went to the gym. They embrace the idea of moving throughout the day, and have a healthy lifestyle in general. When I started training in my early twenties, it was more as a way to challenge myself than anything else. Soon, I became addictive with the endorphins, dopamine and serotonin release you get through exercise, and always wanted to push further and further to get that “runner’s high”. Training became a way to release stress, to move away from anger, to prove myself that I was worth something, that I was better than others, when in fact I was lacking confidence the most. It was my way to run away from my emotions and my anxiety.
At that point, I wasn’t enjoying physical activity anymore: I was simply on survival mode, needing that performance boost on a daily basis to feel that I existed.
I had to step away, take a break, and get back to myself. It was very hard, one of the most difficult things I had to do, but I do not regret it. I needed that time to get back into my body, and find some comfort, some way to feel without it having to be a feeling of pain.
I’m doing much better now. Exercise is still an important part of my life, but I make sure that I enjoy it, and that pleasure is the main objective.
It’s too bad that too many people see exercise as something you have to do, when it can be something you get the chance to do. I firmly believe there is a way for everyone to enjoy movement, and that’s the key when it comes to creating a healthy and life-time habit of physical practice.
Befriend with your body
I guess that going through that whole physical activity addiction thing made me more sensitive to it. Or maybe it’s just because I’m growing old. But these days, I am becoming more and more aware of the importance of taking care of our body, as we only get one to go through this life. As I was talking with a colleague who was telling me about how she used to train and now she can’t anymore because her body is all broken, I realized that mine too could be one day if I don’t take care of it properly now.
That’s why I love yoga so much, as you have no choice but to constantly ask yourself if what you are doing now is good or bad to your body in that moment. It’s always a matter of finding that sweet spot between comfort and pain, as you are always looking for that good stretch and muscular engagement that will make you stronger and more flexible, but that will also allow you to practice again the next day or the day after.
The practice is also great to learn how to get the breath to help us move further and further into a pose. Instead of beating our body up, or pushing it against its will, we use the breath to guide us to that sweet spot I was talking about. Instead of creating more tension in an already tense body, we use the breath to release some of it to explore new sensations. I then use the experience and knowledge I get on the mat to practice safely whatever physical activity I get to after. Yoga also helps me learn how to listen carefully to my body to adapt my practice based on my level of energy, and rest whenever I need to.
However, you don’t have to do yoga. In fact, you don’t have to do anything of what I mentioned before. I simply hope that you will create for yourself the opportunity to move, to rediscover your body, and to embrace your humanity.
Forget about fitness: focus on feeling alive.